It is hilarious to us that people, both fans and media alike, are criticizing the management of the Cleveland Browns because they don’t expect them to do anything during the NFL’s free agency period, which starts today.
The bulk of that criticism comes from a comment made by owner Jimmy Haslam earlier this year that he doesn’t expect the team to be involved heavily in free agency.
Apparently, that was translated that the Browns won’t do anything.
Last night, the Browns did make a move, signing former Ohio State WR Brian Hartline. The Canton native is just a year removed from back-to-back 1000 yard receiving seasons, catching over 70 passes in each of those seasons.
He also fulfills the native northeast Ohio/Ohio State player requirement that some Browns’ fans have.
Last season, Hartline dropped to 39 catches. Did he lose the ability to get open or did Ryan Tannehill simply find a new favorite target?
He was targeted 26 times in the Dolphins first four games, grabbing 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in that time span.
He was only thrown to more than five times in a game twice the rest of the season, one of those games being the season finale, when he caught five throws for 94 yards. In most of the other games, he seemed to be an afterthought in the game plan.
At the very least, Hartline is a bigger target for whoever is throwing passes for Cleveland next season, at 6’2″ and 180 pounds. The only receivers bigger on last year’s Browns’ roster were the currently suspended Josh Gordon and current free agent Miles Austin.
So, Hartline is worth taking a gamble on.
As for NFL free agency, you have to understand that most of the players who are eligible are past their prime, or perhaps are at the peak of their ability, so teams will be paying them for dimishing returns.
That doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact, though. Certainly, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby made a positive impact on last year’s team lending experience and knowledge of professional football that was invaluable.
And both played very well too. The Browns missed Dansby when he was injured at the end of the year, and Whitner wound up making the Pro Bowl.
That said, we wouldn’t be opposed to seeing GM Ray Farmer pick up an experienced lineman, both defensive and offensive to help the depth in those areas. They can probably get both types of players at a reasonable price.
And as we keep saying, we would also like to see the team get another quarterback, one who can challenge Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel for a starting position. If you don’t have “the guy”, then why not have some options and depth.
It wouldn’t or shouldn’t be a problem to bring in a Jake Locker or Mat Moore to compete for a starting spot.
And it can be done and still keep the organization very flexible with the salary cap. Remember, the Browns came into free agency around $50 million under the cap.
However, knowing the Browns’ fan base, unless they sign Tom Brady to play quarterback, the front office is going to take a hit for not doing enough. Let’s wait until the off-season is over before panicking on what Ray Farmer didn’t do this spring.